Colorado Avalanche alternate captain Erik Johnson doesn’t think it’s time to despair yet when it comes to the season. He believes the Avs will have success again soon.
The Colorado Avalanche just lost five straight games and six of their last seven. Some people, fans mostly, think it’s time to hit the panic button.
Unsurprisingly, the Avalanche’s unflappable alternate captain, defenseman Erik Johnson, is not one of those people. He’s certainly not happy with the team’s progress right now, but he doesn’t see them as being too far off from success.
During the post-game presser following the loss to the Winnipeg Jets, Johnson ran down how each of the games went, trying to pinpoint how and why the wheels came off. To be honest, he didn’t come up with anything too revolutionary, talking about good tracking, few shot attempts on the Avs’ side and an inability to close games out. However, he adds:
"“It’s close. We’re right there. That’s probably not fun to listen to at home, saying that we’re right there, but we’re still losing some games.”"
It’s tough to be at home, watching your team flail around when you’re so sure they can do better — he’s right about that. And we all ultimately get frustrated hearing the platitudes from the players. Well, Johnson points out that it’s “no fun right now” for the team either. I like what he says after, though:
"“But we get to get right back on it and play Sunday and dig ourselves out.”"
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We get to get right back on it — not we have to or must. There’s no sense of going through the motions. He’s excited to be playing hockey.
Of course, as one of the veterans and leaders on the team, he has higher expectations placed on him. When asked by rinkside reporter Lauren Gardner if he sometimes wants to put the team on his back, Johnson admitted, “A little bit,” but followed up with, “I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t played up to my standards yet this year.”
Johnson by no means has been awful. Granted in 16 games Erik has recorded only one goal and six assists, but he’s not touted as an offensive defenseman. He’s a true two-way defenseman who sees around 22 of the toughest minutes each game. He’s not a bruiser, but he did block 135 shots last season and deliver 114 hits. This season he’s at 21 blocks and 25 hits.
Concerning his advanced stats, he’s fourth on the team in CorsiFor at 50.2% with a relative Corsi of 5.8. Those are both good stats.
But, that goal he recorded came in Game 16, the loss against the Winnipeg Jets. When asked how it felt to finally get that one out of the way, Johnson remarked that of course it felt good,but, “You want to sacrifice any individual success for team success.”
Erik Johnson has long been one of the leaders on the team. Even before he started wearing the A, he was a liaison between the team and officials when called upon and very often served as a liaison between the coaches and defensive corps. Johnson always takes players under his (massive) wing — you’ve seen it since last season with Samuel Girard.
After the Dreadful Why Us season of 2016-17, Johnson was one of the players who pow wowed to find a way to turn the team around. He’s the longest-tenured Avalanche still on the roster, now playing his eighth full season in burgundy and blue.
He feels the weight of expectation on his broad shoulders:
"“The leaders on this team have got to put an end to this now. We’ve got to stop the bleeding and string some wins together here.”"
Erik Johnson can be a plain talker when the needs be — I don’t always like that about him when he’s being honest and I don’t want to hear it. However, he sees with a long gaze and isn’t afraid to speak his mind, with tact, of course.
Do I think that above quote is about the top line, who’s been borderline dreadful the last few games? Absolutely.
However, Johnson isn’t bad-mouthing the team. He states, “Our minds are in the right places and I think our effort and enthusiasm and attitude is.” Make no joke, he knows, “We’ve got to translate that into wins somehow.”
He goes on:
"“There are peaks and valleys and you just got to maintain an even-keel and try and get yourself out of it — try and have some fun and get some wins.”"
There it is again, that reference to having fun. Here at home, where we civilians might not always have fun at work, that may seem superfluous. However, I know I perform at my best at work when I’m enjoying myself. These men, our Colorado Avalanche, put the time into hockey throughout there lives because they love the sport.
I don’t know how the team is going to fare against the Oilers in Edmonton, or any of the upcoming games, for that matter. I believe EJ when he says the team is “close.” I also believe him when he says this,
"“We will get there. It’s part of going through ups and downs throughout the season.”"
In an 82-game season that lasts six months, you should expects some peaks and valleys.
Just a couple months ago we were bemoaning that it wasn’t quite time for Colorado Avalanche hockey yet. Well, Avs hockey is here. We’re watching the process of the team growing up together. If Johnson, a “veteran” at 30 can enjoy the ups and downs, I think we should, too.